With another hockey season just around the corner TSN.ca takes a look back at the unforgettable moments of 2009-10; from Stanley Cup overtime to Canadian Olympic gold and everything in between, join us as TSN.ca revisits Hockey's Unforgettable Moments from the last 12 months. Game on!
Not all of the last year's unforgettable hockey moments involved NHL players. In fact, one that Canadians may find quite hard to forget - try as they might - is the USA's overtime win over Canada in the final of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
Historically, the WJHC has been Canada’s tournament. It is a point of national sporting pride that Canada believes it produces the best young hockey players on the surface of the Earth. Every December and January, the country gets a chance to prove it once again.
With the Great White North looking to win its sixth straight Gold Medal and the tournament taking place on home ice in Saskatoon, there was even more pressure than usual on Team Canada.
After winning all four of their preliminary round games and a semifinal against Switzerland, the Canadians advanced to the gold medal game against the Americans, who beat Sweden to reach the final.
It was a dream matchup for the championship. Just days earlier, on New Year’s Eve, the two teams had battled in an absolute classic. Down two with less than 10 minutes to go in the game, Canada had roared back to tie the game. Team Canada would eventually win in dramatic fashion in the shootout.
The championship tilt was a rollercoaster of emotions. Late in the game, it appeared the USA was on its way to its second ever Gold at the WJHC; the boys in red and white were down 5-3 as a worried home crowd looked on.
But when Canada needed an important goal at the WJHC, it turned to one man: Jordan Eberle. The Oilers’ prospect had developed a well-earned reputation for scoring in the clutch, including two goals in the New Year’s Eve classic. Not one to disappoint, Eberle scored twice in the final three minutes to tie the game, sending it to overtime and whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
"If you can imagine a wasp's nest geeked up on energy drinks instead of pollen, that's what the crowd at Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon was like heading into overtime," says TSN reporter John Lu, who was covering the game. "Jordan Eberle was being Eberle - two goals in the final three minutes of regulation to force the extra frame, so there was a real sense of anticipation that Canada was going to do something magical."
For Canadian hockey fans, it wasn't going to be easy to watch what would happen next.
Just over five minutes into OT, and following some furious back-and-forth play, the Americans charged into the Canadian zone on a three-on-one. American John Carlson pulled up, stepped in and fired one past goaltender Martin Jones, who had replaced starter Jake Allen. It wasn't a flashy goal, but just like that, the game was over.
"The press gallery was behind the Canadian net during overtime, so we had a perfect vantage point for Carlson's winning shot," Lu remembers. "Actually, it didn't look like the type of shot which championship moments are made of. It was pretty harmless and routine-looking, and the crowd experienced a collective energy drink crash. It felt like the wind got drawn out of the building with an industrial strength leaf sucker."
As the American pile-on took place in front of a stunned crowd, the record-breaking viewing audience across the country came to the realization that not only had the Canucks lost this tournament, but they had seen their streak of five championships in a row get snapped as well.
Those from south of the border were simply elated.
"I'm just so happy right now, it was the biggest goal I've ever scored in my life," Carlson told TSN afterwards. "They're a feisty team, they're a great team and it was unbelievable playing them on New Year's Eve and now here it was, just play our game. We know they're going to get chances and score goals, that's how good they are. We just needed to play our game and tonight it worked out."
Carlson said he had rallied his team with a motivational pep talk before heading out for overtime.
"I said 'If you guys were to tell me at the beginning of the tournament that we'd be here right now going into overtime right now for the gold medal, anyone in the locker-room would have taken it,'" Carlson said. "So I think the camaraderie really helped and we really pulled together there and squeaked out a win."
Eberle was named MVP of the tournament, and Canada still held a dominant 27-6-3 all-time record against the U.S., but those facts came as cold, cold comfort.
"We battled back the whole game but they just kept coming," Eberle said after the game. "It's not easy. We showed the heart that we had to come back. It's just tough to lose on home ice like this."
USA head coach Dean Blais gave a classy nod to his opponents when asked how Team USA pulled off the upset win.
"We played Canadian hockey," Blais said. "We played gritty."
For the 2011 edition, the tournament will shift to American soil, where the USA will have a chance to defend its title in Buffalo.
It will be there, starting in December, that the Canadian roster – no doubt hungry to get that gold medal streak started once again - will have a great chance to show the Americans just how gritty they are.
What are your memories of the Canada/USA final? Will the Americans repeat in Buffalo this time around? Do you think Canada can win five championships in a row again? Take a minute to weigh in with your opinions!